Posting here today - and looking forward to what others have to offer in the days ahead...
Lots of cleverer souls than I have already posted in the BBC Passion, and they've said a lot of the things I think too, only better. Although there are things I'd want to critique about it, it was, overall a superb piece of television and all credit to the BBC for giving over two and a half hours of prime time broadcasting to show it.
The Philistine within me, on seeing the trailers, had pondered the improbability of the marriage of Thermoman to a forensic scientist, wondered where Pilate had hidden his BT home hub and whether his wife's nightmare was because she'd once again lost the baby photos. Such is the danger of choosing actors that are so familiar. For all that, once I actually watched the episodes this did not prove a problem.
There were bits that grated, such as Jesus calling the bread and wine a sacrament, such as Jesus being a fair-skinned sandy-haired westerner, such as some key scenes being located other than the gospels suggest. But these were outweighted by the bits that inspired - the portrayal of Caiphas as a man seeking to fulfil what he believed was God's call, the tender protrayal of Judas, the humanity of Jesus' agony in Gethsemane.
Overall, I think it was a great achievement. Some purists will no doubt question the depature from gosel dialogue. Some will be unhappy with the interpretive slant given to the whole story. And just maybe some will be curious to know more about this story, this man who walked the earth all those years ago.
A lot of people are talking about the series. I hope that those of us who count ourselves Jesus' followers will enter positively into discussions, not pointing out what we perceive as errors of fact or doctrine, but adding our insights to those which God has supplied through this work of film, whether the producer realises it or not!
As posted on Wednesday, our planning consent came through this week. When I announced this at the start of worship today there was some, though not much, spontaneous applause.
Now here are my weird linkages, for no better reason than none...
The last service (apart from the formal closure service) held in our chapel building took place on 19 December 2004, my 42nd birthday. The formal notification of our planning consent (rather than informal!) came on 20th March 2008 - the day before my little sister's 42nd birthday...
The gap between these dates is as near as makes no odds 3.25 years - roughly the traditional duration of Jesus' earthly ministry. I don't think this is particularly significant, it just appeals to my sense of the bizarre.
It would be wishful thinking in extremis to imagine we might reach the next stage by Ascension or Pentecost - but maybe I'll at least know what we need to do next by then. (If any gentle reader has a 42nd birthday coming up, perhaps they'd better beware...!) Life, the universe and everything...? Or just more proof that Catriona, plot and lost can only fit in one order in any given sentence?!
This is a VERY long post, and you are forgiven in advance if you give up part way through! It is simply the reflections I kept for myself, offline, during a week when I sought to enter more deeply into something of the mystery of Easter. I believe that at least to some extent I succeeded...
(apologies that the formatting is a bit doolally, I'm too tired to mess about fixing it)
It has been a good discipline not to post in Holy Week (apart from Wednesday’s lapse) and it has been intriguing to make connections between events here and events in Holy Week all those centuries ago.
“From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise.” Psalm 8:2 cited at Matthew 21:16
Sunday’s Palm Sunday service went well. Encouraged by the fact that a few weeks back I got the entire congregation to pray out loud, I opted for an open praise time rather than just me praying and everyone else saying ‘amen’ at the end. It was brilliant! About ten people prayed aloud, including my 94 year old who never, but never, prays out loud. From the lips of seniors also…
Jesus said, ‘about the resurrection of the dead – have you not read what God said to you, “I AM the God of Abraham, the god of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.’ Matthew 22:31 - 32
Monday morning and we had a death – albeit at one remove – with the father of one of my deacons, who had been living with them during a fairly long illness, dying in the early hours of the morning. It was a good death, peaceful and in his sleep, but it was a firm reminder of the fragility of life. I took a bowl of primroses and daffodils – signs of hope and life which can, in time, be planted in their garden as a memorial – something that is important since the funeral and burial will be far away in the North East that was his real home.
As he looked up, Jesus saw… a poor widow put in [to the Temple treasury] two very small copper coins. Luke 21: 1-2
Tuesday we had our final Lent lunchtime prayer meeting. Apart from me, everyone who comes along is retired, and two are elderly widows, one aged 95 and very tiny. Whilst my widows are not poor and Luke’s may not be elderly, it made a link in my mind. After a lovely time of fellowship and food, we counted the money collected over six weeks to discover we had raised £265 for Water Aid – a truly spectacular effort.
‘I tell you if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out!’ Luke 19:40
Tuesday evening I picked up a message to call my property man to be given the news that our planning application had been ACCEPTED. Imagine one slightly mad minister dancing for joy at this point! It took a lot of will power not to post immediately, and by Wednesday morning the world just had to know the good news…
When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve… Matthew 26:20
Thursday evening and a Christianised Passover Seder at D+2. It was a great experience: a real sense of connection with my own Jewish forebears as well as with those around me. Some truly profound moments and some great jollity. Was the Last Supper anything like this? Were all the disciples singing jolly songs, getting mildly tiddly on four cups of wine (as some of those who were using real wine clearly were tonight) while Jesus was signifying to them great mysteries they could not begin to comprehend? It would have been almost perfect had we left quietly or in silence to go out into the darkness – but some were clearly not comfortable with that ‘place’ and could only face the night with more chattering and song…
And it was night. John 13:30b
They came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him… the people stood watching. Luke 23: 33a, 35a
What if Pilate had had an early morning message to say one of his executioners was ill, I wondered, as I rushed round to organise one of our stations (bread & wine) because one of our folk had gone ill and let me know literally at the last minute. I was really glad I had done it when part way through the morning a group of eleven year old girls came and said ‘Catriona are we allowed the bread and wine?’ ‘Of course,’ I said, as it was actually shloer, and as they had shown to me they could respond to the invitation (‘help yourself’) in suitable maturity simply by asking.
We had a fantastic morning; the leafleting at school had proved very successful as parents and children streamed in at 10 o’clock – most with no church connection at all. Adults took a little longer to arrive, and some didn’t really ‘get’ the multi-sensory installations (which were all fantastic), but still a fairly good take up. My high spot was watching a family gather at the prayer table and write/draw their petitions on heart shaped post-its – FANTASTIC!
At 11:30 we gathered around the large central cross, adorned with 6” nails, purple cloth, crown of thorns – about 50-60 of us, so my Methodist friend advised me, aged from about 1 to 81. We sang, we shared, we listened, we prayed. And then we left - fulfilled.
As we cleared up and returned the hall to its normal state, I found myself pondering Calvary – who cleared up there, if anyone? How long was it before the next round of executions? What were members of that crowd thinking as they left?
When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. Luke 23: 48 …
Sing of a girl on a hillside alone,
Blood on her hands, and grey in her hair.
Sing of a body, broken and torn.
Oh, the child that mother will bear!
Sing of a Girl Damian Lundy, from Hymns Old and New, © Kevin Mayhew
Probably the most profound – and certainly the most painful – experience of Easter I’ve had until now was the one spent working with a Roman Catholic church. But whilst in that church, I discovered this wonderful poem, or hymn about Mary (OK it’s strictly for her, but I’m still a thoroughgoing proddie!). Watching the BBC Passion I was reminded of these words as I watched a greying Mary approach the cross and cry out in anguish as she saw her beautiful son nailed to the cross. As she embraced the cross in a forlorn attempt to reach him I saw portrayed, as I’ve never seen it before, the agony of this woman, now in her fifties, as she stood by, helpless and experience ‘the sword pierce her heart.’ Truly powerful, with an understated violence and real human agony, this was the first time ever a crucifixion portrayal has reduced me to tears. I was surprised to hear myself saying ‘please don’t die’ and feeling a genuine sense of bereavement as the titles rolled…
Easter Saturday… A long day stretching out between Friday and Sunday. A Biblical silence. There are no words for us to work with, to make sense of this pause. Just like the ancients, we have to wait and wonder. As the snow tries to coat the ground, as the mechanics of printing hymn sheets must be completed so the words of the ghetto prayer return to mind…
I believe in the sun when it isn’t shining,
I believe in love when I cannot feel it,
I believe in God, though God be silent.
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning… Luke 24:1a
When it got dark last night there was not hint of frost and the temperature remained stubbornly a few degrees above freezing. At 6 a.m. this morning, the sun had risen, shrouded by cloud and my garden had turned to white… without the benefit of weather forecasting it would have been something of a shock, not what I might have anticipated.
I and a few of my folk gathered with a few Methodists gathered in a Victorian chapel, sang hymns by Wren and Wesley, heard a reflection on Mary’s encounter in the garden and then shared bread and wine. The heavy, formal, liturgical prose felt stifling until we neared the communion itself. We shared the peace – and an ecumenical sharing of germs along the way – and then, in a rare moment of Methodist spontaneity, we passed the bread one to another from the front to the back of the church. And after we had eaten quietly we gathered in a semi circle around the communion rail and were brought the cups of wine to drink together as one. Standing at the end of the line, and looking along at these familiar faces there was a moment of re-membering, of putting back together the broken Body of Christ in this place. Here was a mystery – that the body of Christ was broken but that in the garden his prayer was that the Body of Christ might be one… but only so that it in turn could be broken and shared…
Too soon the moment passed, and the transition to sharing breakfast with others who’d arrived later (before their all age celebration service at 10:15) forced another endeavour to bond as grace was said. Yet, in a sense, this too was part of the mystery, that the table should be ever open to receive more guests. As I munched my toast and marmite, and drank a celebratory cup of chapel tea, it was good to be with God’s people…
‘whenever you do this, remember [or by English punning, re-member] me…’ Luke 22:19b
A few hours later and 18 of us gathered in the same room for our or own Baptist service. Most responded well to the request that they gathered in silence in a room where chairs were arranged in a circle around a central low table decked with daffodils, a cross, communion elements, a Bible… in the background piano music drew us in gently to begin our reflections on the resurrection (adapted from material in Roots worship). From the pre-dawn earthquake and women finding an empty tomb, to a barbecue on a beach and story that never quite ends but leaves you wondering what happened next, we ranged over a period of some weeks and then pondered whether we, like the disciples, would simply go back to what we were doing before it all began (fishing unsuccessfully) or would walk on in to an as yet unknown future trusting that Jesus is with us always, to the end of the age…
‘You must follow me…’ John 21: 22b
A few of us returned to the manse for a bring and share tea, then I took home those who had no transport, cleared away the last of the props and settled down to watch the last part of the Passion. It didn’t quite do it for me – whilst the imagined glimpses into the lives of Caiaphas and Pilate were quite creative, the post resurrection appearances, some in blatantly the wrong place (or were these some of the ‘many others’ alluded to in the longer ending of Mark?), grated somewhat. The only bit I quite liked was the Johanine type of ending where Jesus just disappeared – better than a naff attempt at ascension.
This afternoon I learned of another death affecting our fellowship – again at one remove – this time sudden and occurring on this day of Resurrection. My Easter day ended with a journey into the physical darkness to drop a sympathy card at the home of the family affected. A reminder that even though there are parallels I can draw with events 2000 years ago, now as then life carries on outwardly unchanged: people are born, people die. And yet. And yet, now as then, for those who can perceive it everything changes as hope is reborn, death is defeated and the call to follow is renewed.
It has taken more self discipline that I imagined not to post things this week. I have been surprised how much it has become part of my routine to record my thoughts as they arise, and for this reason, if no other, the discipline has been helpful. Now I’m looking forward to a whole three days off work, during which I shall sleep, munch fair-trade chocolate, drink tea and coffee, and allow myself simply to be…
... to let you know that a certain district council has finally accepted a certain planning application and that a certain Baptist minister is turning metaphorical backflips of delight around her office!*
A certain property steward is waiting for the letter to arrive before he will believe it, but the relevant website says quite clearly 'accepted.' And a certain congregation will hear the good news on Easter Sunday.
* firstly she can't turn real backflips and secondly, even if she could there is not enough space in her office!!